An alarming statistic was published several weeks ago by Gallup: only 33% of fifth through 12th grade students surveyed felt they were success-ready. When breaking down the factors that lead to success, Shane J. Lopez, Ph.D., suggests hope, engagement and well-being. Also telling about student attitudes today: they were asked to imagine a ladder with zero at the bottom and 10 at the top – 10 is the best possible life and zero the worst. Not only did students feel unprepared for success, but their “life ratings” also diminished from fifth through 12th grades.
Let’s put aside how gut-wrenching it is that we are failing the next generation and focus on what Lopez suggests can be done. Survey results show that those students with teachers who make them excited about their future show higher percentages who feel hopeful, engaged and thriving.
I have a personal connection to this, as I must admit I had abandoned (or I like to think delayed) a career in teaching almost 15 years ago because I felt disempowered.
What would motivate the best and brightest to pursue a teaching career? Many say it’s the low salaries or the lack of appreciation by society that are the biggest deterrents. I would say unless teachers feel empowered to make a difference in their students’ lives, there is little intrinsic motivation.
Branding and marketing can also increase motivation. How? If prospective teachers knew they had the power and support of a community that believes in what they believe in, that resources are there to help them accomplish their goals, perhaps more would be teachers and more would be energized to connect even more deeply with their students.
Here are a few ways branding and marketing can create community, including a few ways we’ve started to do it at KHJ:
- Sharing of ideas among educators: By connecting STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) initiatives under one umbrella, we make all those individual efforts that much stronger. One of the biggest hurdles for teaching STEM is that teachers don’t feel qualified to do it or don’t feel that they have the curriculum resources. If we don’t “brand” this effort and if we don’t publicize it, how will educators come together?
- Bringing together all the parts of a community toward one goal: For Ursuline Academy, we’re reaching out to all their stakeholder audiences – students, faculty, parents/grandparents, alumnae and supporting foundations/organizations. This very special school has been able to help transform girls into strong young women by bringing their “inside out” – encouraging and engaging girls to grow all the different parts of themselves, from academics to athletics to volunteerism. But it is possible only if the girls receive the same “you can do it” mentality from a surround-sound community and the appropriate funding to support them.
- Make businesses feel like part of the community: Taking the long view into the future, what will become of businesses such as advanced manufacturers or engineering companies without the next generation of skilled workers? Let’s give businesses an easy role they can play: spread the word and post videos of the next robot they’re creating or the solar panels they are building to create renewable energy on AMP it up! Let’s create excitement about the future and what students are capable of making one day.
It’s an age-old saying: “It takes a village … ” and along those lines I believe it takes a community – a community that I want to be a part of. Will you join us?
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